It’s a long story about how i ended up travelling to Fiji. Me and my friend had quite a long list of countries to visit starting from Jordan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Armenia, and Iceland (none of them were Fiji). And we took quite some time (I mean, REALLY long time, like almost a year) going back and forth on which one is cheaper in terms of airplane ticket and which one is free visa for Indonesia Passport Holder. But, none of us was feeling assured about all the choices.
And then one day, we had a re-discussion about this and the same tone came again. We travelled around the world on that discussion but decision was not made either on what country should we visit. And then at one point, I said “well, why not travel to the east and go to Fiji, I always wanted to go there!” (I didn’t throw the idea before because my friend doesn’t quite like beach vacation). Miraculously, she said yes and we booked the ticket right away. That my friend, is one of those stories where you spend months thinking about one thing and end up doing another thing decided in just 1 second. Talking about impulsiveness!
So, Where in the world Fiji is?
This dreamy vacation spot somehow is not a common destination for Indonesian. So, I got a gazillion questions about where Fiji is.
Geographically, Fiji is located in South Pacific Ocean, with Vanuatu and New Caledonia being its neighbour on its west, and New Zealand on its South. It’s an Island Nation with more than 330 islands, in which 110 of them are permanently Inhabited. There are three major groups on of islands in Pacific Ocean, they are Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Fiji is part of Melanesia Islands.
Fiji has two major island, Viti Levu where the Capital Suva is, and Vanua Levu. Viti Levu is where the name of Fiji came from. They call their home Viti, but in Tongan (their neighbour) they call it Fisi, and Fiji was formally made public by Captain James Cook. This is what this place is known today.
Climate, Plant and Wildlife of Fiji
Fiji is basically a tropical marine country with temperatures are as low as 20 degree Celsius during the winter and about 29 degC during summer. Rainfall usually is in great amount during the period of November to March, and reduced in amount during the summer.
Half of Fiji area remains forested. You can find coconut palm along the shore coasts with mangrove swamps commonly found on eastern coasts. Fiji is also home to 2600 species of plant but only one-third of Fiji plant is endemic to the island. They include ferns, orchids, and epiphytes. Fiji coral systems are also one of the South Pacific largest coral reef systems. Some of the native animals of Fiji are fruit bats, Fijian monkey-faced flying fox, birds, iguanas, snakes, geckos, and many others.
Fiji is very strict in protecting the islands’ endemic plants and animals and put a rather stringent regulation for visitors entering Fiji. The prohibited items include seeds, crops, honey, plants, dairy items, herbs and nuts. Any failures to declare these items will result in a harsh fines or imprisonment. I bought a subway sandwich before my flight from Singapore to Fiji and planned to have it upon arrival. But it wasn’t successful getting it out of screening process (though my friend’s sandwich made it through!). I wasn’t aware of the restrictions though.
People of Fiji
Fiji population as estimated in 2018 is about 926,276 (source: Wikipedia). Indigenous Fijian people are usually classified as Melanesian and make up more than half of the population. The second large ethnic in Fiji is Indian and they make up about 37% of the total populations.
The widely use language in Fiji are English, Fijian, and Fijian Hindi. Most people speak two languages and they are English and their own ethnic community language. Most Indigenous Fijian are catholic and most Indians are Hindu and one-tenth of the population is Roman Catholic.
More than one-fourth of Fiji Population is under the age of 15 and another one-fourth is between 15-29 as per the year of 2017.
How to get to Fiji
The only way to get to Fiji from Indonesia is using flight, as well as from other part of the world. I used direct flight from Singapore to Fiji using Fiji Airways and it takes about 10 hours flight to reach Nadi International Airport Fiji from Changi International Airport. However, indirect flights with stoppage in Sydney or new Zealand are also available.
At that time, the ticket price for direct flight from Singapore to Fiji (and vice versa) was IDR 7,000,000 or around USD 480 and it was at the discounted price.
How to get around in Fiji
Depends on where are you going to, transportations around Fiji involves boat or ship, public transports, and cars (motorcycles are rarely available). If you go island hopping, then boat is the answer. If you want to go around the island, then renting a car is the answer, and or public transports if you just want to go around the city of Nadi.
Getting to the resorts or places from Nadi International Airport is actually pretty simple. If your destination is one of the resorts, you can book transfer exclusive from your resort (this is usually very pricey), or you can ride a cab or book transfers available at any booking agent in the airport. You can ask directly to the travel agents of the transfer price. It usually takes about 18 FJD (1 FJD = IDR 7000, 1 FJD = USD 0,46) to the hotel in Nadi Central (about 12 minutes’ drive), and about 28 FJD to hotels in Denarau area (about 30 minutes’ drive).
During my stay on Fiji, I used rental car to reach further destination within Viti Levu such as Sigatoka Dune, garden of the sleeping giants, but also tried using local buses for short travel around the city of Nadi. The cost of rent a car can starts from 90 USD to 200 USD depends on the type of car. If you’d like to just wander around city of Nadi, riding the bus is also good alternative. Make sure you read the destination plastered on the body or front mirror of the bus, and ask the driver if their route covers your destination before entering the bus.
Inter-island transfer is another thing in Fiji. On this trip, me and my friend decided to go explore Yasawa small island and having island hopping. The cost of boats for island hopping in Fiji is notoriously expensive, and the boat won’t stop on an island if you don’t have a reservation on the resort of that island. We had few islands to visit, so we bought the famous Bula Pass. Bula pass is sold on 5 days, 7 days, 9 days, 11 days, 13 days, and 15 days basis and there’s timetable for each departure.
What do to in Fiji?
Surprisingly, a lot of fun things can be done in Fiji. I am more of an active traveller and love to explore beautiful spots, and initially felt sceptical of what can be done in the island. I was afraid of ended up being idle and just sat on the beach. Not that there’s wrong with that, but I was seeking to engage in activities.
Thankfully, even in the remote island, you can have activities such as circling the island (wherever possible) and hike up to its highest point, snorkelling, kayaking, paddle boarding, and diving. However, these activities are limited to daylight only as nothing much you can do in the remote island during the night except for stargazing. Stargazing had been my favourite activities since the sky in Fiji was exceptionally clear and beautiful.
Other activities you can enjoy is those offered by the resort such as weaving a hat, palm weaving, or making coconut jewellery, cooking class or guided treks.
In the Fiji remote islands, it is mandatory to buy the meal and activities package. In Some small islands, there are only one or two resorts and nothing else! So, there is no other options than dine in the restaurants. As for the activity package, it can be sold together with the meal, or sold separately. The normal activity package usually includes water sport and renting of its gear (kayak, snorkel and the diving shoes). However, more specific activities like diving or diving with sharks were offered in a different optional package.
Why would you go to Fiji?
I could not stress this enough, but visiting Fiji has been one of the most unique and real experiences I have ever had so far. I had been focusing my travel on visiting places in the main continents in the search for mountains and alike. The idea of spending time in Maldives or Fiji was easily dismissed since the image I had on my mind of travelling to the places are for honeymooners and I was afraid of being idle in remote island with no activities to do.
However, Fiji took me by surprise by its beautiful crystal water, mysterious remote islands, and its unique culture and kindness. Spending my time walking along the purest beach line with only a meter away from the magnificent corals and colourful fishes, the serenity of a remote islands, and the warm Fijian welcoming dance had been such therapeutic moment, especially when you greeted with the big Bula smile from the locals!! Fiji also has the purest beach where there are not many person and the simple island life were surprisingly refreshing.
When I got tired walking on its shore, activities were also awaits. I went for kayak before sunset, snorkelled and met by all the marvellous creatures underwater. Dinner time was so precious, and everyone on the island quickly filled the dine hall and waited for the Fijian food to be delivered. On some resorts, traditional Fijian dance and songs in the background complement the dine experience. And for some, the clinking sound of the dishware and the sound of frogs, toads and the breaking waves makes the perfect symphony for a dine-in partner.
All being said, whether it’s a relaxing or therapeutic holiday, or adrenalin filled holiday, or culture-filled holiday you are searching for, Fiji has them all.